There’s a certain joy involved in watching someone talk about what they love. In Standup for Drummers, you get to watch Fred Armisen do it for an hour. Plus, you’ll probably laugh too.
In his latest Netflix standup special, the Portlandia and Saturday Night Live star has taken the conventions of typical standup comedy, thrown them in the dumpster and from the ashes of that dumpster fire created a beautifully hilarious piece of work that is solely, truly and uniquely Fred Armisen.
Somehow, Armisen has created a show that is specifically geared toward one audience — drummers — but can be enjoyed by anyone, even those who (like me) have never even held a drumstick.
In the opening seconds, you see that Armisen’s team has screened the audience members to ensure that everyone present is a drummer. Armisen’s set is 90 percent drumming jokes, so he needs people who can relate.
Standup for Drummers feels like a guided tour through the ins and outs of Armisen’s genius psyche. The comedian flits between bits, which can range from seconds-long impressions of him pretending to be standing in line at a fancy hotel, to longer meditations on the nuances of setting up a drum kit.
Every aspect of drumming genuinely intrigues and amazes Armisen. This joy is quickly contagious. His knowledge is unbelievably vast and intricate. Watching most people talk about drums for an hour is boring, watching Armisen do it is a delight.
Armisen’s impressions are an especially entertaining part of the special, and it’s clear he has given a ton of thought to mastering each one. Armed with a map and a pointer, he does impressions of accents across the United States.
He also personifies multiple famous drummers through only his facial expressions and movements. Switching between varieties of drum kits, enough to expand all the way through the aisle of the theatre, Armisen is able to recreate drumming styles from the 1920s and ’30s all the way to today.
The special takes an especially poignant turn near the end, when Armisen recounts a letter he sent to director John Waters at the age of 15.
“[Waters] kind of like saved my life,” he says. “He gave me purpose.”
The story isn’t especially funny and wouldn’t be at home in most standup specials, but Armisen doesn’t seem to care. John Waters taught Armisen to create original material that feels true, even if some people think it’s weird.
In Standup For Drummers, Armisen has done just that.